Artist Profile: Doug G. Fitch ’81 for Eclectic Artistry and Pushing Boundaries |  Arts

Artist Profile: Doug G. Fitch ’81 for Eclectic Artistry and Pushing Boundaries | Arts

The terms “polymath” and “multihyphenate” hardly come close to describing Douglas G. Fitch ’81.

Throughout his career, Fitch has worked as a visual artist, actor, architect, puppeteer, set and costume designer, and stage director, along with a detour from culinary school that led to a collaboration with Mimi Oka ’81, creating multisensory food experiences Art. He also made a puppet adaptation of a 15-hour opera tetralogy, played the clown in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in the Adams House swimming pool, and designed the interior of violinist Joshua Bell’s apartment.

The Harvard Crimson sat down with Fitch, who graduated with honors from Harvard with a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies, to discuss his dizzying artistic career, his experience at Harvard, and what he has up his sleeve now: stage direction as well as set and design of costumes for Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Eurydice, an opera based on playwright Sarah Ruhl’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Before working with some of the most daring opera and neo-opera theaters nationally and internationally, Fitch had humble beginnings: a home puppet theater in his family’s basement. When he eventually applied to Harvard, he even brought a doll to his interview.

“The puppet and the interviewer, they had a fantastic time and I started to feel a little left out,” Fitch said.

Needless to say, his work made an impression. Within the first week of his freshman year, Fitch received a call from an unknown number who turned out to be Peter M. Sellers ’80, a future theater director and just a year Fitch’s senior at Harvard. The unexpected call led to a fruitful, lasting friendship.

“There is no doubt that he was a huge influence in my life. We became great friends. We shared a huge interest in classical music, and he had the biggest record collection I’ve ever seen, and he would always challenge me and say, ‘Okay, what do you want to hear?'” Fitch said.

Fitch’s favorite hangout on campus was the Carpenter Center, where he built a physical sandbox to construct custom chairs for a sophomore class—a project that became his thesis. He also attended the Graduate School of Design, enjoying the extraordinary atmosphere of architects at work.

“[I’d] just walking around and introducing myself and looking over people’s shoulders and seeing what models they’re making. It was such an amazing place,” Fitch said.

Although he expected to attend architecture school, he ended up never going. However, Fitch talks about the influence of the Harvard community on his identity as an emerging artist.

“I think the great thing about Harvard was that it provided a kind of context in which you could find words. I mean you could even share the idea of ​​philosophical concepts without even calling them that. They were just sort of dinner table conversations. And later you realize that not everyone in the world is going to be like that,” Fitch said.

And perhaps “artist” is the closest to describing what Fitch is doing now. Fitch explained that he never viewed his many artistic abilities as distinct separate skills. Rather uniquely, he sees himself first and foremost as a problem solver: someone who invents parallel universes to help us see and make sense of the world we live in. Combine that with his conviction for storytelling, and Fitch’s diverse range of talents seems part of a collective quest to interpret the complexities of reality.

When asked what’s next for him career-wise, Fitch simply expressed his desire to continue “working with people who are good.” A frequent guest lecturer at Yale and New York University, Fitch noted the changes in values ​​in the various industries in which he found himself.

“The discussion changed from ‘How do we make the most amazing production’ to ‘What do we do with a set after it falls?’ Did you throw it in the dumpster? Is that even interesting?” he said.

Recognizing the inherent wastefulness of the theater and design industry, Fitch expressed a desire to do better not only for the sake of the environment, but also to honor its commitment to problem solving.

Armed with this sensitivity to the changing landscapes of his artistic milieu, Fitch eagerly tackles his current project, Eurydice, which came into his orbit because of another Harvard alumnus, Matthew A. Aucoin ’12. This isn’t Aucoin’s first work Fitch has directed; Fitch previously directed Aucoin’s opera The Orphic Moment in Brooklyn and Salzburg. But Eurydice promises a different experience, this time from Eurydice’s point of view. Reduced from a full orchestra to an ensemble of 20 players and with the chorus removed, Eurydice in Boston will be a much more intimate experience than its world premiere at the much larger Los Angeles Opera House.

“It’s such an amazing metaphor, this story, for human beings,” Fitch said.

Fitch spoke of the value of the collaboration on Eurydice, thanking assistant stage designer Jiaying Zhang.

“Maybe it’s the doer in me, but the value of talking things through with someone is fantastic. Very wonderful, useful, instead of sitting in a room and trying and expecting to come up with all the ideas yourself,” he said.

Talking about his creative process for the show, it’s clear that his approach is informed by his rigorous training in the visual arts. He begins with the painstaking work of painting fabrics for the costumes, before creating a fiber art world for the opera characters and considering finer details such as transitions between scenes and multi-purpose props and set design.

Add the performers to the mix and the result is pure magic—the culmination of several months of grueling but satisfying work.

“I just wouldn’t want a better cast — a cast that doesn’t have anybody because it’s a job. Everyone is there because they just want to do the best they can,” Fitch said.

Combined with his tangible and intangible visions for the show, Fitch simply asks audience members to take away “whatever they’re doing.”

“I don’t think I’m going to have to tell somebody what they should feel, because they’re going to feel something,” he said.

Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Eurydice plays at the Huntington Theater March 1-10.

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